Economy worries business majors

The College and its students took notice of Wall Street’s crisis a week and a half ago when 158-year-old investment giant Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

On the same day, Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America, and American International Group (AIG) announced plans for a massive restructuring.

The simple translation: Thousands of employees could soon be out of work, making an already difficult job market even more competitive.

Wall Street has been crippled by an unhealthy combination of faulty homeowner loans and heedless management tactics, with company heads shying away from predicting when the American economy will drag itself out of its own mess.

Thousands of ex-employees are expected to flood the job market, significantly increasing the competition pool. For students at the College seeking internships or jobs in the financial sector, it may be a wake-up call.

“It’s going to be a more challenging environment,” Jack Kirnan, interim dean of the School of Business, said. “Students are going to have to be more adaptable. They’ll have to be more diligent in following up on leads and they’ll have to be much more organized.”

According to Kirnan, he and the rest of the business faculty feel confident they will prepare students as much as they can for the challenging job market.

“We’re in the process of working with Career Services to have a panel of experts to give a better view to the students of what has been happening,” Kirnan explained.

Juniors and seniors at the College are taking these events into perspective as they work to market themselves to prospective employers.

Steven Martinez, senior finance major, has been with Merrill Lynch, a global financial services firm, in its Global Wealth Management Analyst Program during the past two summers. About a month ago, he was offered a job in that same program. On Sept. 15, Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America to avoid a further financial crisis, leaving Martinez wondering if his offer would be revoked.

“I was really scared at first,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know how it would impact my program. Obviously there was going to be layoffs and budget cuts. I got a phone call two days later from one of the recruiters and she assured me that my offer was still valid.”

Martinez’s case appears to be one of the few instances in which companies have not revoked their offers.

According to Sheil Naik, senior finance major, Merrill Lynch recruits heavily at the College, so many students had offers still on the table. However, Naik said students who accepted offers with Lehman Brothers may not be as lucky.

Naik said he is hoping to find employment with Bloomberg LP, a company that provides financial information to clients.

“Part of the reason I chose to interview with Bloomberg is because of where their business operates in the financial sphere,” Naik said. “Unlike Lehman Bros. or Merrill Lynch, which have deep investments in poisonous mortgage-backed securities, Bloomberg merely provides information to these companies, so they are safer than other firms.”

Martinez and Naik are prime examples of what Kirnan and other faculty are preaching: An understanding of what is going on in the economy will leave students better prepared for job hunting.

Herbert Mayo, professor of economics and finance, simply said, “Get your act together. (Students) need to hustle more and they need to develop their résumés and be better informed.”

Unfortunately, the job market was difficult even before the crisis.

“The unemployment rate was already high,” Donald Vandegrift, professor of economics and finance, said. Because of this, students should research which companies might be in a hiring freeze and which industries are seeking to hire.

Alexandra Saad, a junior accounting major and intern at a hedge fund company, is simply bewildered at Lehman Brothers’ current predicament.

“Everyday I do so many transactions with Lehman Brothers and now we’re told to just disregard them,” Saad said. “All the contact information I have for Lehman Brothers and now they’re not working there anymore.”